Welcome to Preseason 2016. We’re trying to keep the conversation low-key for now with the Worlds final right around the corner but, with a pile of changes hitting the PBE soon, we wanted to get ahead with our gameplay goals for this preseason. After Worlds, you’ll hear more from other teams at Riot - with more than just gameplay! - but we’ll keep this focused on what changes will be hitting the PBE for this preseason and the upcoming 2016 season.
You may have already seen our early work with the ability power itemization changes in patch 5.13 to the juggernaut update in 5.16, but our goal for 2016 is to make each game of League of Legends feel unique. From the different champion strengths you bring, to the items you take to battle, all the way to the masteries you choose - we want your decisions to matter and have a clear impact on how each game plays out.
That said, this preseason we’re focusing on...
Through the years, marksmen have lacked meaningful differences, with their identities typically centered on the same thing: do lots of damage from range. In cases like these, if you’re being judged on only one competition (damage), you get a pretty obvious power ranking with no real roster depth.
Our goal is similar to our work with juggernauts, where we targeted a group of champions (in this case six marksmen - Corki, Miss Fortune, Graves, Caitlyn, Kog’Maw, and Quinn) who occupied similar strategic spaces, and gave them a little more ‘uniqueness.’ We’re doing this in two ways: how the marksman plays, and how the team plays with them. For the first, since marksmen are so concerned with their basic attacks we want to make sure each feels different. Should you have brought that shotgun to a javelin battle? Maybe! For the second approach, we want to really push the breadth of what a marksman offers. Much like how you pick Ashe for global stuns, or Sivir for when you gotta go fast, or Miss Fortune when you need some wombo for your combo, we want teams to think different based on who’s joining the fray.
Hand-in-hand with the updates for marksmen, we’re bringing some deep changes to marksmen items like we did with ability power purchases and juggernaut gear.
When we first tackled AP items, we wanted to accommodate the mages who blow up squishies while also offering equal opportunities for those who control the battlefield. When it comes to attack damage items, however, marksmen will always be focused on what lets them deal the most damage at any given point in time. Knowing this, we're offering more options when it comes to who (or what) you want to fight, and how you contribute to your team through that choice. So whether you want to be a lone gunman, dueling on the edge of the fight, or the nimble spellcaster, or the siege machine and tower crusher, we’re providing you with the right items to buy so you can take out the right targets.
We’re updating the mastery system to offer focused, high-impact choices rather than a slew of nuanced micro-math optimizations. Each mastery tree will have three tiers. Each successive tier you invest in, you’ll be able to pick up some stats and a choice of one of three potential masteries (you can only choose one!). Tier 1 masteries will be nice to have (but not game-changing), tier 2s will have a decent amount of strength, but tier 3s - we’re calling them “Keystone masteries” - will be the ones that really augment your playstyle. We’re still experimenting in this space, but an example would be a keystone mastery that lets your damaging abilities also bleed enemy champions for a portion of your bonus AD and AP over time. Or one that grants a movement speed boost the moment you deal a large chunk of damage to an enemy champion.
By condensing power into clear decision points, the masteries you take from game to game should have an impact on your playstyle, and we want to offer multiple mastery paths for most champions in League.
Two seasons ago we did a major revamp of the vision system by introducing sightstones, trinkets, and ward limits. This season, we’re adding more options for those about to ward up (also: we salute you). Our goal with vision is two-fold: first, we want to keep pushing the vision game as a team effort and, second, we want to make vision more dynamic than days past.
For that first goal, we’re doing things like free trinket upgrades for all, along with the option for tier 2 support items to upgrade into either powerful tier 3 active items or slot-efficient sightstone upgrades.
For the second goal, we’re removing Stealth Wards from the shop so teams will need to rely more heavily on their pink (and blue trinket!) wards to get the vision control they need. In tandem with this change, however, we’re also adding a new feature in ward ‘debris’ when a ward passes on. By giving you the ability to see the dead bodies of wards who’ve moved on with their lives, you’ll be able to learn more about your opponent’s vision habits as well as your own.
In-hand with our goal to offer a diverse preseason, we decided to take a gander at starting items. When there are standard starting item builds for every game of League, the end result is these builds tend to benefit (very slightly) certain champions over others. We’re taking a different approach this preseason by offering more clear opening ‘paths’ so that players can refine their playstyles with real choices, rather than just opting for a generally powerful start. You’ll see these changes reflected in two sets of items: starting power items, and sustain.
For items you’re bringing to lane, we’re using the Doran’s set (blade, ring, and shield) as a baseline “generalist” group that provide all the broad stats you want. From there, we expanded your options to provide a few more ‘specialized’ approaches, like Cull - a light skirmishing AD starting item that provides less defensive stats than Doran’s Blade, but gives bonus gold for killing a set number of minions.
As for sustain items: we first started with health and mana potions. Health pots are going up in price to better position them as a purchase for those who just need some sustain to get them past the early game. Any form of long-term sustain we folded into the refillable potions (and their subsequent upgrades) to really solidify their identity (because before, it was… flask and potions to be a ‘sustain’ build). Mana potions, on the other hand, are being removed. Our decision to remove mana pots goes along the same philosophy as starting items. 100 mana tends to benefit certain types of champions over others (with mana costs being balanced against individual champion kits) and can wildly shift from being a mediocre purchase to a very cost-efficient one. By removing mana pots, we can better balance champion ability costs with the mana regeneration stat while also streamlining the ‘sustain game’ of League.
It’s no secret that players who depart for the top lane can end up feeling isolated without a dragon to contest. Rather than just flipping the map on its head, we’re exploring ways to bring some relevancy to the north so top laners can feel like they're interacting with their team before the 15 minute mark.
Details are still being sussed out, but expect to meet something new on Summoner’s Rift in the early phases of the game. Defeat it, and gain single target buff focused on early game power and pushing down the lane.
We’ve got a few more changes on the way, but the above are some of our big gameplay plans for this preseason! That said, we’re not going to stop the conversation here. We’ll keep you updated on our progress while also sharing more of our long-term vision, so stay tuned after the World Finals for more on the preseason and 2016 season!